About five years ago, I started an experiment with the blogs in my classroom. I merged them into one. I have a single blog that students from all of my classes can post to, and I permit students to satisfy their blogging requirement by commenting on any discussion thread no matter which class it is from. I call this a “Cross-Classroom Blog”. Five years later, I haven’t looked back. Here are the main ways this has improved the value of having a course blog and made the experience better in terms of student learning and involvement.
- Philosophy Die-Hards Get More Philosophy
I tell my students that “Sometimes one philosophy class isn’t enough to fill that philosophy-shaped whole in your heart.” For my students who really have the philosophy bug, they get to be exposed to even more philosophical debates and subjects in an accessible way.
- Veteran Students Take on a Mentoring Role
Philosophy majors who have had me for several classes start to take on a kind of mentoring role. It’s pretty great to see it in action. It’s more evident when a lot of my students in an upper level class have taken one of the lower level classes. They have a chance to basically teach new students and guide them through a subject they already know a lot about.
- Easier to Appreciate Connections Between Sub-fields of The Discipline
- Markets the Discipline
Hopefully, one of your goals in your class is to get students excited about your field and want to take more classes in your discipline. Students are constantly being made aware of other interesting questions and topics in your discipline if the blog is cross-classroom.
- Creates the Audience You’ve Been Asking Your Students to Pretend They’re Writing For
I often tell my students to write as if most of the audience wasn’t in class or didn’t do the reading. They need to carefully articulate the argument or claim and make it clear what the issue is that they want to discuss, before they weigh in and discuss it. With a cross-classroom blog this isn’t pretense; it’s actually the case.
- Helps with the Pacing Problem
Course blogs can often turn into barren wastelands where students don’t post all week, don’t talk to each other, and then login on Friday night to bang out their post requirement. I wrote a separate post about this problem, and how I’ve structured my posting requirements to fix it. wrote this post about a cool way to solve pacing problems. It’s worth noting that a cross-classroom blog also helps avoid this problem. You’ll have fewer days of inactivity on a single blog with 90 people, than you will on three separate blogs with only 30 people. You also maximize the chances on each day that something will posted that gets discussion going.
That’s it. In my experience, my students overwhelmingly favor this structure for a course blog. While it’s good for the students, I should also add that it’s good for you. You only have one blog to manage, so you reduce the administrative headache of dealing with multiple admin panels for multiple blogs.
That’s it. If anyone reading this decides to implement it, I’d love to hear what your experience was like.